The baking

Month: January, 2013

Where does it all go?

So, I’ve been asked – in person – what, exactly, I do with all the stuff I bake.

I certainly don’t eat it all.

I bake so much that I usually only try a small piece of whatever I’m baking.

Sometimes – as was the case with a lot of the holiday baking I did recently – I actually don’t even try what I’m baking at all.

I find that baking is pretty easy to get rid of. There’s always someone willing to take it. Friends, co-workers, and, well, pretty much anyone I ask,  seems to, generally, have few issues with accepting baking.

Whomever gets the baking, gets the baking. And I get feedback on the baking, which I appreciate.

If I can’t get rid of something I’ve baked right away, I usually put it in the freezer – then give it away or share it as soon as I get a chance.

So, that’s where all the baking goes.

COO KIES

COO KIES: it’s not a typo.

I’ve been baking: baking cookies.

Most of these cookies are variations on the basic cookie formula I like to use.

First up:

Image

I made these cookies the other night. They have a salted cookie dough base with ground hazelnuts, coffee, and cocoa.

To make these cookies, I added half a cup of ground hazelnuts, two tablespoons of very fine grind coffee, and a tablespoon of cocoa powder to the oil-sugar-salt-vanilla mixture at the beginning. Then, I let the mixture sit for a bit to mix the flavours. From there, it was the usual cookie procedure. And I added about a third of a cup of large semi-sweet chocolate chips at the end. I rolled the dough into balls and baked at 375 degrees for about 10-minutes.

These cookies were – and still are: I have lots left – delicious and are probably one of my favourite recent cookie projects. The taste is somewhat similar to these cookies, but with hazelnut.

Here’s a close-up:

Image

I made these peanut butter cookies right after making the hazelnut-coffee-cocoa cookies:

Image

These are salted peanut butter cookies made with chunky peanut butter.

Again, I used my basic cookie formula. But I replaced some of the oil with chunky peanut butter – the peanuts-only kind. I also added a bit more starch: about a heaping tablespoon’s worth.

I rolled the dough into balls, sprinkled on decorative sugar and baked at 375 for just under 10 minutes.

I decided to deliberately under-bake these cookies. They turned out just slightly crispy on the outside and soft – but fully baked – on the inside. Under-baking was a good decision.

These cookies were a holiday baking project from December:

Image

I made them with the basic cookie formula. But I added a tablespoon of cocoa powder and a teaspoon of very fine grind coffee to the oil-sugar-salt-vanilla mix. When I added the chocolate chips – about a third of a cup of them – I also added pieces of pretzel and pieces of broken candy cane.

I sent these cookies off with somebody who was going away for the holidays. I’m told that they were enjoyed. And rather rapidly consumed.

And now for something completely different:

Image

I decided to experiment with puff pastry.

I had originally wanted to make palmiers – or palm leaves, whatever you want to call them – but I decided to go with small, rolled, cookie-size pieces.

I bought a package of frozen puff pastry from the grocery store and let it thaw in the fridge overnight.

When I was ready to bake, I took half of the puff pastry dough – the package of dough I bough was pre-cut into pieces – and rolled it out on a clean surface with a rolling pin. I rolled the dough until it was about a quarter of an inch – or just over half a centimetre – thick, and the size of a piece of paper.

Image

Then, I sprinkled the dough with regular sugar and rolled it together – starting from one of the long sides.

I used a serrated bread knife to cut the roll of dough into pieces about one inch – or two and a half centimetres – long. Then,I rolled each cut piece in a little bit of sugar – which I had poured onto a small plate.

Baking instructions for puff pastry should be printed on the package that the dough came in.

I laid out  the pieces of dough on a foil-lined cookie sheet and transferred the sheet to the oven to bake.

Image

What’s especially important with baking puff pastry is to keep checking on and watching the dough so that it doesn’t burn. Puff pastry can go from looking completely unbaked to being very much burnt very quickly.

After removing the baked puff pastry from the oven, let sit for a few minutes before removing from the baking sheet and transferring to a wire rack to cool.

And yes, this post contained both a reference to a certain blue TV monster AND a reference to a python named Monty.

That cupcake book wins again

Over the weekend, I took a break from creating my own recipes and pulled out the wonderful book of cupcakes.

This was the final product:

Image

Those are hazelnut cupcakes with mocha-hazelnut mousse filling. The cupcakes were topped with chocolate ganache and toasted hazelnuts.

The mocha-hazelnut mousse filling was particularly tasty.

Here’s what the cupcakes looked like on the inside:

Image

And a little closer:

Image

I modified the recipe slightly for convenience and ingredient availability:

-The liquor store I went to to buy the hazelnut liquer that the recipe called for only had large bottles of said liquer. I didn’t want to buy a big bottle of liquer that I only needed a small amount of. I mixed together rum and ground hazelnuts and let the mixture sit for a while. It worked, though I think I’d try something like coffee liquer – say, perhaps that one that starts with a K and of which small bottles are easily found – instead.

-Instead of pre-prepared hazelnut meal or hazelnut flour – I couldn’t find such things at the bulk or regular grocery stores I went to – I ground hazelnuts to a fine powder in a regular coffee grinder.

-I ground whole flax seeds in a coffee grinder instead of buying pre-ground flax meal.

-Instead of the instant espresso powder that the recipe called for, I used double the amount regular instant coffee.

-I toasted the hazelnuts – which I bought pre-sliced in a little bag from a regular grocery store – in a cast-iron pan, on medium heat, dry and without oil.

The next morning, leftover mocha-hazelnut mousse filling made an excellent topping for homemade blueberry waffles.

Coffee and pretzels and cookies

ImageThese turned out, if I may say, spectacularly well.

I used my basic cookie formula. But I added cocoa, very finely ground coffee, chocolate chips, and chopped pecans. And I pressed and baked the dough into large sourdough pretzels.

This particular batch of cookies was made as part of a Christmas gift. And the cookies smelled fabulous while baking and while being cooled.

As for quantities and tips for baking these:

-I used about 3 tablespoons of very finely ground coffee. Yes, I put ground coffee straight into the cookie dough. Actually, I put the coffee into the dough along with the oil, sugar, and salt – and, then I let those ingredients sit for a while. As for obtaining very finely ground coffee, you can buy it already ground. Or you can use a grinder. Or you can – as I did – buy a small amount of bulk coffee beans at the store and set the in-store grinder to the finest grind setting. I currently have a small supply of very fine grind coffee – specifically for baking – set aside in my freezer.

-I used about 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder. I added this to the sugar-coffee-oil-salt mixture.

-I used about half a cup of chocolate chips. I added these after all of the basic cookie ingredients – along with the coffee – had been added and mixed.

-I used slightly more than half a cup of chopped pecans. I added these at the same time as the chocolate chips. I’ve done a bit of pecan research at supermarkets and bulk stores, and, from what I’ve seen, it seems that the cheapest way to get pecans is to buy a large bag of whole, unchopped, pecans at a discount grocery store and, then, chop them yourself.

-I bought the sourdough pretzels I used – they were about the size of a credit card – at a bulk food store. But you could use pretty much any kind of pretzels. Adjust the amount of dough you press over each pretzel before baking according to the size of the pretzels you are using.

You could also put pretzels on top of the cookies. Or perhaps add them directly to the dough. Or use another kind of nut in place of pecans.

Baking with bananas: the freezer trick

Image

This is a banana, frozen solid and just out of the freezer.

Mashing bananas – for, say, baking banana bread – isn’t very difficult, but it isn’t super-easy either.

An easy trick for making bananas easier to mash is to store them in the freezer.

Keep the bananas in the freezer until  you’re ready to use them. You can thaw the bananas in the fridge overnight or on the counter for a few hours. However you thaw the bananas, make sure to put a plate or tray under them: they may leak a little.

The skin on the thawed bananas will be dark brown and kind of slimy-looking, but the banana inside will be soft, juicy, and easy to mash.

The freezer trick also helps to preserve and use up bananas that are very ripe and would go bad if not eaten or baked with right away.

Peanut butter cups

When I saw Mei’s post on Bento break about peanut butter cheesecake cups, I knew I had to bake something similar.

I decided to make peanut butter cups with a layer of chocolate cookie on the bottom.

Image

The results were delicious.

The cookie part was crispy on the edges and moist in the middle. The peanut butter part was thick, full of peanut chunks, and a little bit salty. And the chocolate part was, well, chocolate-like.

I started by lining a mini muffin pan with paper liners and pressing a layer of cookie dough about half a centimetre – or about one quarter of an inch – into each. The tray went into a preheated, to 375 degrees, oven for about 5 minutes – and then onto a wire rack to cool.

Image

For the cookie dough, I used:

-2 tablespoons cocoa powder

-1/3 cup canola oil

-2 teaspoons liquid vanilla extract

-1 teaspoon salt

-1 teaspoon baking soda

-1 teaspoon baking powder

-1 cup flour – I used all-purpose wheat flour

Next, the peanut butter layer happened. The peanut butter layer was, basically, a thick, peanut butter-flavour, fondant.

I used:

-1 cup peanut butter – I used the chunky, peanuts-only, type, but you could use whatever peanut butter you’d like

-1 1/2 teaspoon salt

-2 1/2 cups icing sugar – use more or less icing sugar to make the fondant thicker or thinner to your taste

-1 tablespoon cornstarch

The ingredients were mixed together and, then, added to each muffin liner, on top of the cookie layer. Leave about one half a centimetre – or a quarter of an inch – of space at the top. Then, put the tray back into the 357-degree oven for about 5 minutes.

Remove the tray from the oven, put on a cooling rack and, right away, while the peanut butter layer is still hot, sprinkle chocolate chips on top of each cup.

Image

Let the chocolate chips melt – melted chocolate chips will look like the chocolate chips in the photo above – and, then, spread the chocolate over the top of each cup with a butter knife.

Image

Leave the cups to cool – and enjoy.

If you want the cups to cool faster, move them to the fridge.

I was pleased with how these cookie-bottom peanut butter cups turned out.

Someone who tasted these peanut butter cups said that thy tasted just like those orange-wrapper peanut butter cups available at the store. And everyone else who had one of the peanut butter cups seemed to like them too.

People seemed to like the peanut butter cups that I sprinkled with Celtic sea salt – which I did while the chocolate was still melted – quite a lot.

I plan on making these again.